DULUTH, Minn. — A return home, a sellout crowd and the urgency to find a victory weren’t enough to break Minnesota-Duluth out of a slump that reached 11 games Friday night.
Defending WCHA champion North Dakota survived a barrage of shots in the opening minutes then took control on the way to a 5-1 win before 5,290 at the DECC.
No. 9 North Dakota (11-6-2, 9-5-1 WCHA) entered the series averaging 2.67 goals a game, yet scored three in the first period, two in the last four minutes. The Fighting Sioux have won six of their last seven games and six straight against the Bulldogs, and are back in first place in the league, following Wisconsin’s overtime loss at Minnesota State on Friday.
UMD (7-8-2, 5-6) is 2-8-1 in its last 11 games. The Bulldogs were seeking a spark after playing four of their first five league series on the road and earning only two victories in the previous 10 games overall.
“This was probably our biggest game of the year and we just didn’t have it,” said UMD junior winger Justin Williams. “It seems when we get scored on first we can’t ever recover quick enough. I thought we would be more energetic, but this was a step backward.”
A two-man power play for 45 seconds in the game’s first two minutes gave UMD a chance to get on track. A third straight power play allowed the Bulldogs to build a 9-3 shots-on-goal advantage. But there were no goals. Sophomore goalie Jordan Parise stopped UMD winger Mike Curry from the crease at 6:46 on one his better saves.
North Dakota has given up just five goals in 22 shifts while being down two skaters this season.
“Duluth came out flying the first six minutes and then they were just average the rest of the game,” said Parise. “After we got past those first few minutes we got moving.”
It took 10 seconds of North Dakota’s first man-advantage to produce a goal. Scoring leader Colby Genoway connected from the left point to put UMD behind for the 13th time in 17 games this season at 8:44.
Goals less than three minutes apart gave the Fighting Sioux a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes. Winger Drew Stafford, a member of the U.S. Junior team later this month, scored 4-on-4 with 3:40 left and Brady Murray put in a rebound with 59 seconds left in the period.
UMD starter Josh Johnson was replaced in goal after the period by Isaac Reichmuth.
“This was one of our better games. We got out ahead, stayed ahead and took a really big step forward,” said Stafford, a junior from Faribault, Minn. “We’ve been getting shots and creating chances, and now they’re starting to go in.”
A second power-play goal, with 5:22 left in the second period, put North Dakota ahead 4-0 as senior defenseman Matt Jones scored from the right circle.
Another 4-on-4 goal, from Murray at 5:18 of the third period, made it 5-0 before UMD broke Parise’s shutout bid. Marco Peluso’s 10th goal of the season, from the crease in a 5-on-3 shift, came at 8:14. Parise thought he had the puck covered under an arm.
The goal was of little consolation.
“We were desperate for points in the league and came out with an effort like this. It was embarrassing,” said Peluso. “We took penalties that cost us goals. That shows how our effort was.”
It was UMD’s most one-sided defeat in 106 games, since losing 5-1 at Wisconsin in the final regular-season game of 2001-02. The Bulldogs also had their fewest shots on goal of the season in being outshot 31-24.
It was North Dakota’s most one-sided win of the season and came on the heels of its most-stinging defeat, a 2-1 loss at home last Saturday to Alaska Anchorage.
“North Dakota gets the first goal and it’s like the game’s over. It was men against boys after that,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “North Dakota played well and our defensive play wasn’t even close to what it was last week (in two 3-2 losses at Wisconsin). We made of lot of mistakes which then turned into two, three and four mistakes in a row.”
Kevin Pates covers college hockey for the Duluth News Tribune.